Six Young Portuguese Activists Sue 32 European Nations for Climate Inaction

Sep 28, 2023

Six young Portuguese climate activists have taken 32 European nations to court for failing to protect them from the brutal effects of climate change. They have filed a lawsuit in the European Court of Human Rights to force these governments to do far more. 

“Today’s case is about the young. It is about the price that they are paying for the failure of states to tackle the climate emergency,” attorney Alison Macdonald argued), according to The Associated Press (AP). “It is about the harm that they will suffer during their lifetimes.”

The lawyer for the UK argued that the plaintiffs cannot sue. He says that because they are not citizens of 31 of the countries named in the lawsuit. The defendant nations include the 27 nations of the European Union. Norway, Russia, Switzerland, Turkey, and the UK are the other five countries named. They argued in court filings that the plaintiffs haven't shown how climate change has directly affected them.   

The plaintiffs include young people who were either children or teens when they chose to sue in 2017. Among them is Sofia Oliveira. She was 12 when more than 100 people were killed in wildfires that swept across Portugal that year. 

“It was now or never to raise our voices,” Oliveira told the AP. She is now a college student. 

The suit comes in the wake of a breakthrough case launched by young plaintiffs in the US. Last month, a state court gave young climate activists their first major victory. The case was titled Held v. Montana. The court ruled that the state had violated rights in doing little to combat climate change. That's because Montana's constitution requires it to maintain "a clean and healthful environment."

Photo from Unsplash courtesy of Markus Spiske.

Reflect: Why do you think young people are so concerned about climate change? How can young people make a difference in protecting the environment and their future?

Based on the details in the story, who would most likely agree with the statement that young people are paying for the failure of governments to address the climate emergency? (Common Core RI.5.9; RI.6.9)
a. parents
b. climate activists
c. government officials
d. business leaders
For more formative assessments, visit to start a free trial.

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